Dealing with the Endless Disruption of Restless Leg SyndromeJohn Stamoulos
Just when you need to sleep and rest from a hectic life, it starts. You finally are in bed and your lower leg and foot muscles start to tingle, spasm and generally feel like the above image looks. Accompanying these sensations, is the overwhelming urge to move the affected limb. You try rubbing your legs, walking around or doing deep knee bends but those crawly feelings just won’t let you sleep. Welcome to the world of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)!
What is RLS? This disorder occurs if you are sitting still or lying down and creates twitchy, painful sensations in your calves, thighs, ankles or feet. Its causes are not clearly understood and range from having a lack of iron in the blood that can keep muscles from resting, to having underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease or arthritis, to pregnancy. It has even been surmised that RLS could be related to disruptions in the brain chemical, dopamine. Other research suggests that poor blood circulation is to blame.
Whatever the cause, it can result in a deterioration of your wellbeing mostly due to its discomfort that escalates stress, causes anxiety and depression and keeps you from enjoying restful, restorative sleep.
How massage can help: Massage therapy is known to improve circulation and to increase the release of dopamine in the brain. These two factors could be significant in helping treat RLS. Research has backed up this theory. One case study example indicates that Swedish massage and direct pressure to leg muscles vastly improved one sufferer’s experience. Moreover, the relaxation response from massage therapy can add to the support for such treatments in quieting RLS.
What else can you do? In addition to letting regular massage therapy support a lessening of RLS symptoms, there are some easy practices you can incorporate into your day:
- adding iron and vitamin supplements into your diet (be sure and check with your doctor beforehand),
- adopting healthy sleep habits that encourage the ability to fall asleep (keep sleep area cool, dark and quiet; avoid electronic screens before bed; regular bedtimes)
- incorporating yoga and stretching into your daily routine
Regular massage therapy when used in conjunction with other at-home practices can go a long way to putting RLS in its place. It can allow you to return to the refreshing and deeply restorative sleep that you need to lessen your stress, anxiety and depression so that you can maintain your overall wellbeing.